Can Gang Leadership Save Chicago?
1 month ago
The key to the city's gun violence may be stronger mob bosses.
One drawback of Chicago's being known as the Windy City is that destruction seems to get caught up in the currents, easily.
In 1871, the city suffered one of the worst natural disasters in the country when a two-day blaze swept through the city, destroying homes, businesses, churches, City Hall and anything else in its path.
Fast forward more than a century later, and a different type of fire is engulfing the city: Violence.
In the first three months of 2012, the number of violent deaths shot up 60 percent from the number a year before. By July, the homicide rate in Chicago had claimed more lives than those killed in the war in Afghanistan by the same month. Many of those numbers also were aided by violent weekends where dozens of people were being shot and killed by the hour.
Much of the violence has been blamed on Chicago's always present gang problem. Home to countless gangs including Larry Hoover and David Barksdale's Gangster Disciples, Jeff Fort's Black P Stones, the Vicelords and others, the city is no stranger to the impact of gangs. However, recently, things have seemed to spiral out of control; much of it either fueled by or filmed via social media.
But while the gangs themselves are often pointed to as the reason behind all the lawlessness, as problematic is the void in "leadership" left after a generation of founding gang leaders being jailed and the dismantling of many "formal" gang structures, experts said.
"Some of those gangs are out there without a true hierarchy or a leader," said Mike Shields, president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police. "Each corner is their own turf, and they're fighting over different corners, and people are getting killed over who is controlling what dope spot on some of these corners in Chicago."
While the Chicago Police department has indeed done its job by arresting gang members who commit crimes, safety isn't always the end result. For every gang leader that is sent away to jail or prison, that's one more young knucklehead, with even less scruples, looking to take his place. Compound that with reports saying that Chicago currently has 625 gang factions in operation, and you have a recipe for chaos; a chaos often showcased on social media.
A recent ABC News summit, "Hidden America: Don't Shoot I Want To Grow Up" shone a spotlight on the growing gang violence among the city's youth.
According to ABC News:
Gang members, some of whom are aspiring rappers, often use Facebook, Twitter, Hipstar, MySpace, Youtube and other social media outlets to spread inflammatory messages and encourage rival gangs to respond. Police officers have even found password-protected, gang-related websites that are used to recruit members, inform members about meetings or parties and even commit crimes, according to the Chicago Crime Commission.
At the moment, the faces of such activity are young Chicago rappers and Black Disciple members Chief Keef and Lil Reese.
The online behavior of both Keef, who rose to prominence earlier this year after a fan video on World Star Hip Hop, and Reese -- whose connection to Keef via their Glory Boyz Entertainment clique made him just as popular -- has raised eyebrows and outcry over the violence displayed.
In September, a rival of Keef, 18-year-old Lil JoJo, was shot and killed after he filmed himself riding through Keef's territory taunting Reese and other crew members. The only thing sadder than the death was Keef's joking on Twitter about the incident.